From September 24, 2006: Tribute to the 2005 White Sox

On the John

Nostalgia comes early: a tribute to the 2005 White Sox

Originally completed September 24, 2006

Geoff Blum salutes the fans following his 14th inning home run in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series.
Geoff Blum salutes the fans following his 14th inning home run in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series.

I was sitting in Tommy Nevin’s Pub in Evanston the other day, hanging out with two of my best friends. The juke box was on, loud. After about an hour of barely hearing the conversation and barely listening to the juke box, a song came on that grabbed us. Grabbed my buddy Luke in particular. Luke is a raging White Sox fan. The song was Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. His face sagged.

“You know what this is?” I asked him, smiling. He did not respond, and so I proceeded. “Nostalgia.”

It should be noted that while I am a Cubs fan, I have never been a Sox-basher. Three of my best friends growing up—Luke included—were mondo, legit Sox fans, and so I support the Sox in that I support the happiness of my friends. Furthermore, as a sports fan, I’ve learned to appreciate, and at times mildly support, any team in football, basketball, or baseball that I deem plays the game The Right Way. The team can be one that grabs me on a strategic level or an attitude level. For me, the 2005 White Sox satisfied both categories.

A fundamentally sound team, the ’05 Sox excelled in classic Chicago sports fashion: scrappy, get-it-done offense mixed with top notch defense. In this case, defense includes pitching, where the Sox were the best in the Bigs without any perennial All-Stars on the rotation. White Sox pitchers finished first in the AL in ERA (3.61), wins (obviously), saves (54), complete games (9), and innings pitched (1475.7), while finishing in the top six in four more categories.

It is true, yes, that the Sox did not have a single .300 hitter on their roster (not including Joe Borchard and his .417 average off of 12 ABs). Despite that however, they were a very effective, productive bunch. They excelled at small ball, (second in the AL in hit batsmen and third in stolen bases), but they also had a good deal of power (fourth in the AL in home runs and seventh in Slug).

But oh, how unsatisfying numbers can be when set against the experience, which is exactly what the 2005 White Sox were: an experience. Boy, were they ever. Dominant through and through, yet rarely overwhelming. That was them. From the first pitch thrown by Mark Buehrle to the final one from Bobby Jenks, the White Sox frustrated opponents by never really seeming all that good, even though, of course, they were. From April to September, the Sox were the kings of baseball, revered by writers and adored by fans, just as it should be.

Then came the near-collapse, as Cleveland erased a double-digit lead in games to pull to within a game and a half in the division. And then came the Sox, righting the ship, saving the dream and their fans’ sanity. And then came the first show of extended dominance in an obvious manner, as they muscled the Red Sox in Game 1 en-route to a sweep before smothering the Angels in five on the strength of four consecutive complete games from their rotation.

Then came the World Series, where the Moments piled up. From Ozzie’s classic pantomime request for the hefty Jenks to shut the door in Game 1, to Paulie’s granny and Pods’ walk-off in Game 2, to Geoff Blum’s Game 3 pinch-hit homer in the wee hours of the morn, and then back to the park and Houston’s weary fans for Game 4, inning upon inning, scoreless, waiting…

It was, throughout, a wonderful season, one that Sox fans will carry with them every day for the rest of their lives. The 2005 Chicago White Sox were an experience, one that will never be replicated, and now as the curtain to this 2006 season falls unwittingly upon Ozzie’s team, Sox fans are left wondering why it had to end this way. To your credit, you Sox fans have been more grateful than bitter, more understanding than angry. You wanted to see your team back in the postseason, to see them defend their championship. Any fan would.

In a way though, that’s what has happened. Let’s just call the past month the qualifying round, with the Sox being knocked out by Minnesota, Detroit, and Oakland, three of the teams that will “advance” to the final tournament. No shame in that. Sox fans, like all fans, simply wanted a chance to see what their team was “made of.” Well, this past month was it.

And now we say goodbye, and focus in on the Bears and Bulls and maybe even the Blackhawks, and in twenty years we will go to the local Jewel to see Geoff Blum and Willie Harris and Pablo Ozuna and Neal Cotts signing autographs, and we will stand and cheer and beat our hands together in welcoming Ozzie and Paulie and Jermaine and A.J. and Crede and Rowand and Buehrle and Contreras and the rest to World Wide Cellular Field, and we will look down at our children and tell them about this team. And maybe the Sox did indeed win another title or two in ’08 or ’09 or 2010, and maybe they didn’t. Maybe they simply ended up being the team that won the World Series once and us forever.

If only all fans could be so lucky.

Copyright 2006 jm silverstein

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